Single, with children – Estate Planning Guidelines
Thank you for allowing us to assist you with your estate planning. We hope you understand and will greatly benefit from your use of the estate planning documents you purchased through our virtual law office.
Although you purchased documents from our online self-help website, we want to make sure that you are aware of a few additional steps you might want to take as part of your estate plan. Specifically, we hope you consider changing your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, retirement plans, and other accounts and products not directly governed by your estate planning documents. Below are some general guidelines and suggested language for your use in this regard. Please be careful and select the instructions that apply to your particular circumstances.
Not sure what to do? No problem. We can help.
You have taken on a big task. It is not always easy trying to formulate an estate plan on your own without the training, experience and expertise of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. We would be happy to provide you with additional assistance for a modest additional fee. You have the option of upgrading your level of service from our “Documents Only” service to our “Lawyer-Assisted Documents” service. Or, alternatively, you may speak with one of our lawyers by telephone. If you are interested in either of these options, please select your preference below, complete your upgrade purchase, and one of our attorneys will contact you.
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Beneficiary Designations for Life Insurance and Retirement Plans
In order to add further flexibility to your estate plan, it is advisable that you name the “Trustee(s) of the Descendants’ Separate Trusts, for the benefit of my descendants by right of representation, under the Last Will and Testament of [client],” as the primary beneficiary of your life insurance policies and retirement plans.
Beneficiary designations for retirement plans often differ from those for life insurance because retirement plan distributions are generally subject to income tax to the recipient upon receipt while life insurance distributions generally are not subject to income tax.
When your children attain an age at which you believe they would properly manage any assets left outright to them, you may wish to consider naming them directly as contingent beneficiaries of any retirement plans as this would simplify the distribution or transfer of the retirement funds and may result in more advantageous tax treatment.
Please note that the above examples for making beneficiary designations may not be compatible with the particular standard forms provided by your human resources department/insurance company/financial institution/etc., or may not be permitted under their particular rules or policies. We have not researched the existence of such limitations and are not specifically advising you regarding such issues. Doing so would require an additional engagement with us as it may be necessary to draft around specific policies and/or to seek specific approval before submitting the beneficiary designation. Please consult with your human resource representative/ financial advisor/insurance agent/etc. regarding the existence of such limitations, and contact us if you decide additional assistance is required.
We will be relying on you to change your beneficiary designations. However, if you have questions, please feel free to purchase a 30-minute (or more) phone consultation with one of our attorneys.
Gifts of Tangible Personal Property
Your last will and testament permits you to leave some or all of your tangible personal property, not otherwise specifically disposed of by your last will and testament, to beneficiaries named after the signing of your last will and testament. In order for such gifts to be binding under Indiana law, they must be set forth in a writing that is signed by you and describes with reasonable certainty the items and the beneficiaries to whom such items pass. The term “tangible personal property” does not include tangible personal property used in a business, and that term is more specifically defined in the definition section of your last will and testament.
Although making a gift in this manner is legally binding, we recommend that such gifts not include items of material economic value. While this method of making gifts is convenient, you should note that a bequest made without the assistance of legal counsel bears a greater risk that your wishes will not be fulfilled.
Assets Passing Outside of Will
Not all of your assets will pass pursuant to the instructions set forth in your last will and testament. Certain assets will pass by other means. For example, life insurance proceeds, annuity proceeds and retirement plan assets pass pursuant to beneficiary designations and jointly owned assets generally pass to the surviving joint owner(s). So that your goals are met, it is important that you consider how such assets would pass to your beneficiaries in the event of your death. With respect to the jointly held assets, if it is not your intention that your interest in a particular jointly held asset pass to the surviving joint owner(s), you should not own the asset in that manner.
Annual Review of Your Estate Plan
You should reevaluate your estate plan on an annual basis to determine if changes are appropriate in light of changes in your economic situation, family or health, or changes in the law. Many of our clients re-execute their estate planning documents on an annual basis, in order to: (1) confirm that their plan addresses any changes they have experienced over the prior year; and (2) reaffirm their testamentary intent, thereby making it more difficult for disgruntled relatives to challenge their wills in court. We would be happy to assist you, if you need and request that help.
In order to make this annual review process simple and cost-effective, our law firm offers a simple, inexpensive service: Estate Planning Assurance Plan (link). If you would like us to help you determine whether or not you need to make changes to your estate plan, you may simply let us know by purchasing our Annual Update & Assurance Plan below.
I would like one of the attorneys at GRIFFITH LAW GROUP LLC to help me determine whether I need to revise my estate planning documents.
Otherwise, it is your sole responsibility to monitor and review your estate plan on a regular basis, particularly when your circumstances change through such events as a birth or death of a loved one, divorce, remarriage, major illness or injury, and the like. Should you desire to revise or revoke your estate plan in any manner, you should consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney before doing so.
Should you have other questions or need other services, please let us know how we might be of help to you.